From the outside, Africa may just look like any other country with wild animals running around. The reality is somewhat different. Featuring several types of habitats and more than 1000 species of animals, Africa is perhaps the best combination out there. One example of this is the South Luangwa National Park. According to experts, this is one of the best wildlife sanctuaries ever to exist and rightfully so. Named after the Luangwa river, which is the lifeline of the river system in Africa and its wildlife, the concentration of mammals, reptiles, and birds is intense.
South Luangwa National Park
The South Luangwa National Park is a 9,059-square-kilometer area that is located in eastern Zambia. Although it is a gigantic park but it is known for walking safaris. The Luangwa River is the bloodstream of this park as it runs through it and provides a living habitat for ox-bow and lagoons. The river features crocodiles and hippos, with more than 400 species of birds playing their role to maintain a healthy ecosystem.
Initially, the South Luangwa National Park was established as a game reserve in 1938 and then later turned into a national park in 1972. The most popular animals you shall see here are the Thorneycroft giraffe, cape buffaloes, and herds of elephants. The South Luangwa National Park consists of the rift valley as well, which along with other rivers within, form a natural barrier. As a result, the area remains protected from the outside world. Therefore, due to the very low population, the area remains conserved naturally.
South Luangwa Wildlife
The South Luangwa National Park is home to at least 60 species of mammals, including four of the big five. Amongst them were rhinos as well that were unfortunately poached or hunted to extinction over 20 years ago. As already mentioned, the South Luangwa National Park is home to herds of elephants, giraffes, and hippos enjoying the lagoons.
Moreover, the buffalos here are a sight to see as well, with their humongous black fur-covered bodies and curling horns. Your safari and the ultimate South Luangwa experience is not complete until you get to see some lions and hopefully, you will. Not only that, if your eyes are able to catch them, but leopards could also be seen around. Fortunately, the South Luangwa National Park is something more and bigger than these icons. Do take a look at the endangered African wild dog as well while you are at it.
Seasons of the National Park
Rainy Season: The South Luangwa is inaccessible during the rainy season from December until the last rains in about April. After one night of heavy rain and thunder, the Luangwa River could rise by several meters to form a lake that was not there the day before.
Dry Season: May to August are the colder winter months with warm days and cold nights. After that, it gets hotter and dryer and by September and October, it is very hot. By this time the bushes have wilted and the earth is bone dry, so animals assemble along the river and at remaining waterholes. These hot dry months are the best for game viewing.
Birds of South Luangwa National Park
As we said, the South Luangwa National Park is something bigger than just lions, buffaloes, hippos, and crocodiles. It also carries the reputation of hosting several iconic bird species. It is estimated that there are around 400 avian species located within its boundaries. While birds are living within the area, it provides a resting place for migrating birds as well, when the season arrives.
These seasonal migrants travel from all over Europe and Asia. The most highlighted bird species here consist of the African-skimmer, which is considered threatened, the Southern carmine and Pel’s fishing owl, etc. If you thought that was it, it wasn’t. There are around 39 species of raptors existing in the area consisting of both endangered and vulnerable vultures.
South Luangwa National Park Activities
The South Luangwa National Park is the ultimate walking safari experience. The idea was conceived by Robin Pope and Norman Carr, who experienced safari operators by profession. Therefore, the idea was turned into reality by setting up camps and lodges to get as close to wildlife as possible, safely. Furthermore, these areas were not accessible by vehicles. While walking you will come across many exotic insects, flowers, and rare flora, while being accompanied by armed guards and an expert guide.
It is suggested that tourists consider booking at least one night drive. The night time brings out many nocturnal animals, which you otherwise don’t get to see during the day. These animals include bushbabies and leopards. The summer season is also a great time to visit the park for boat safari that floats you along with the landscapes, giving you a glimpse of animals drinking water and crocs and hippos relaxing with their heads popped out.
Where Should I Stay?
When it comes to choosing a location at the South Luangwa National Park to stay, you are bound to spoil yourself. It has so much to offer and since everyone wants to get as close to wildlife as possible, the lodges and camps near the Luangwa river will force you to spend some extra dollars. Consider the magnificent TenaTena tented camp and the private Luangwa Safari House. If you wish to experience heaven on earth, consider Chinzombo, which is an extremely luxurious camp featuring six villas and an infinity pool offering splendid looks beyond the river.
If budget is a limitation, you could consider the affordable Flatdogs Camps. However, if you are even tighter, stay at Marula Lodge, which is located at a five-minute drive from the main gate of the park. You could use the two meals and safaris every day by paying a reasonable fee. However, if you want to do things a bit on your own, make use of the self-catering kitchen.
When Should I Visit?
Although the South Luangwa National Park is a destination that could be visited throughout the year but every season contains its pros and cons. Generally, the dry winter months are the most preferable time to visit as animals gather at the river and you get to see most of them in one place. If you wish to walk, consider daytime when the temperature is comparatively cooler. Moreover, you could visit during the hot summer season if you can bear the downpours. The scenery is simply breathtaking and the rates are cheaper as well.
The South Luangwa National Park is a place you need to visit at least once in your lifetime. It is a raw wildlife experience alongside a soothing view of natural beauty that calms the mind and spirit. A chief characteristic of this place is that every mile/Km offers something new, so you are never going to get bored. And, do not forget the night time, which is a beauty in itself.